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What Is Decomposition?

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Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum
Schoolyard and Urban Ecosystem

Whan a plant, animal, or insect dies, that plant, animal, or insect is broken into tiny pieces and those pieces become part of the soil.  This is called decomposition

Bacteria, fungi, and some worms are what break down dead plants, animals, and insects.  The bacteria, fungi, and worms are called decomposers.  Decomposers need to eat some of the dead things so they can live and grow. 

The tiny pieces left over after decomposers eat become part of the soil.  Living plants take what they need from these pieces so they can grow.  The parts of these pieces that living plants take to grow are called nutrients.  So, living plants make their own food, but they also need to get nutrients from the soil.  Decomposers help provide these nutrients.

Common decomposers in a schoolyard ecosystem are:

  • bacteria
  • fungus
  • earthworm 

Play the animation to see a dead tree decompose.

Alt | Win

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